Relief well planned to kill blowout in Gulf of Mexico

Global Marine Inc., Houston, has moved in a second rig to drill a relief well and is in the process of obtaining a derrick barge to cap a natural gas blowout in the Gulf of Mexico about 26 miles south of Freeport, Tex.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, July 16 -- Global Marine Inc., Houston, has moved in a second rig to drill a relief well and is in the process of obtaining a derrick barge to cap a natural gas blowout in the Gulf of Mexico about 26 miles south of Freeport, Tex.

Natural gas is blowing from the well, but there has been no fire, officials said.

Meanwhile, authorities have given up the search for a missing supervisor who is credited for safely evacuating the other 39 workers when the blowout occurred about 4 a.m. Friday. He was identified as Ben Freeman, 61, of DeRidder, La., employed by Applied Drilling Technology Inc. (ADTI), Global Marine's turnkey drilling subsidiary.

Freeman "heroically directed the evacuation of his crew," said Global Marine officials.

In a statement released Sunday through the company officials, members of Freeman's family said, "Should the search efforts not locate him, we as a family are proud that his last thoughts and efforts were to ensure the safety of his crew."

Freeman was one of two ADTI employees aboard the Marine 4 jack up rig, which the company had contracted from Marine Drilling Cos. Inc. of Sugar Land, Tex. The other 38 people aboard were employed by Marine Drilling or other contractors, officials said.

There are no clues as to why Freeman failed to make it aboard one of the enclosed "life-pod" emergency vessels that the others used to escape from the rig. His absence was discovered about 4:30 a.m. after the escape vessels were in the water. The survivors used flashlights to look for him in the water around the rig, said Global Marine officials.

They were picked up by a supply boat at the scene and subsequently transported to shore. No major injuries were reported, officials said.

A rescue crew had a difficult time getting aboard the rig Friday afternoon to look for Freeman "in the most obvious places where he might have gone," officials told OGJ Online. Blowout specialists from Wild Well Control Inc., Spring, Tex., made a thorough search of the rig Saturday afternoon.

At dusk Saturday, the US Coast Guard ceased its search for the missing man, but Global Marine continued its search by helicopter through daylight hours Sunday. �Ceasing the search was a very difficult and painful decision to make," said Jon Marshall, chief operating officer of Global Marine.

There were seven boats, five helicopters. and an airplane employed at the peak of the 3-day search, which extended around every manned and unmanned structure within 55 miles of the accident, officials said.

The cause of the blowout is still unknown. Company officials said observations Saturday from both aircraft and boat showed no evidence of discoloration or sheen in the water that would indicate hydrocarbon pollution.

A second Marine Drilling jack up rig is on site and has started drilling a relief well for plugging operations, Global Marine officials said today. That will take about three weeks to drill, officials estimated.

Meanwhile, Global Marine is in the process of obtaining a large dynamically positioned construction barge to attempt to cap the well from the surface.

The Marine 4 rig is still where it was drilling when the blowout occurred. There is no estimate yet as to possible damage to that rig.

The Marine 4 is a mat-supported jack up built in 1975 and is capable of drilling to a depth of 25,000 ft in a maximum water depth of 250 ft.

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